Getting MySky

New Zealand’s SkyTV finally got around to introducing a PVR/PDR (a la TiVo), which goes by the not-particularly-great name “MySky”.

Three and half years ago, I wrote to Sky’s product manager, asking if they planned to make a PVR, and if not, suggesting that they did (with an explanation of why it would be a good idea). I was pretty interested in one based on all that I’d heard about TiVo etc, but didn’t really feel like spending the time creating my own, especially since it would have to work with the Sky system somehow (e.g. send IR to change channels).

(For those unaware, New Zealand really only has one pay-TV supplier, Sky, which is Satellite based (not cable), and who have a huge penetration (more than half of all households), and also broadcast the main free-to-air channels – so basically every station you want is available through Sky. Unfortunately, their monopoly means that their service is pretty crap (perhaps a post for another day)).

I got a reply from Sky indicating that they were already working on one. I eagerly waited, even setting aside some money since I figured it would be pretty expensive. I waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually, I figured they just weren’t really interested (especially when they bought out one of the DVD-rental-by-mail companies (but not the best one), since it seemed maybe they were going there instead).

Finally, in early/mid-November last year, I received a brochure from Sky advertising “MySky” (this was a little before all of the TV advertising started). How it takes four years to develop a simple product like this (using off-the-shelf Pace hardware, as I understand it) is beyond me. Perhaps they only had one guy working on it or something, and he’d never heard of MythTV.

I immediately (within minutes) headed to their website to sign up. The product wasn’t to be released until the start of December, but I figured that signing up quickly would mean I’d get it installed quickly (hah!). The next day, a message was left on my answerphone asking me to ring them to sign up. This is obviously a company that doesn’t understand how to do things right: what is the point of signing up online, if this means that someone rings you to tell you to ring them? I could have just rung to start with…I rang them, and was told that the install would be mid-December, which sounded fine to me (nicely in time for the typically wet Christmas/New Year holiday period).

In mid-December, I received a phone call informing me that the install would actually take place on the 17th of January. This is very slow, even for Sky – that’s over two months after signing up. If I didn’t know anything about PVRs, I would have just cancelled at that point, and spent my $600 on extra Christmas stuff. Throughout this whole time, they continued to heavily advertise (terrible ads, which really don’t explain anything about why the device is good), and even had demonstrations in malls (why didn’t they put one of those in my house?). Was no-one at Sky smart enough to order enough of these to meet demand? Were there really so many people signing up before mid-November (right when they introduced it) that it took 6 weeks to get through them all?

Another initial complaint was that they could just send me the box and I could plug it in (perhaps saving some of the very high install cost as well). Plugging a few cords in isn’t that hard (people manage with a DVD player). However, when the install finally happened, the guy did something to the dish, so that might not be possible (although it didn’t take long, so I could probably have done it).

So, anyway, the install finally happened on Tuesday. Apparently, it was the guy’s first install, which showed a bit (he wasn’t particularly clear about what he was doing, and had to refer to his manual pretty often). He also told me the PIN would be 0000, which it is not (so I have to call customer service to fix that). It took less than an hour – certainly one person could easily do 7 of these in a day, if they didn’t have to travel too widely. (If it was someone who didn’t previously have Sky Digital, then that would be a different situation, since the dish would also have to be installed).

Update: I rang customer services about the PIN – it’s obvious that they’re not at all set up for handling queries (apart from sales) about MySky. I made my way through the “push 1 for …” menu, but ended up in support for the old non-PVR boxes, who couldn’t help me (after waiting several minutes), but there wasn’t any menu option for PVR help. They put me through (eventually) to someone else, who didn’t know how to solve the problem, but at least went and asked someone, instead of transferring me again. This is a pretty basic question – if they can’t answer this, I doubt I have any hope of getting help with something complicated.

Anyway, if anyone is looking for the answer, because they’re in the same situation, it appears that the default PIN is the day and month of your birthday. IOW, my birthday is January the 25th, so my pin was 2501. Not one that I’d guessed (you get three guesses every ten minutes). Someone should tell the installers that – and put it in their little manual, so they can look it up if necessary.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. […] It’s been about 48 hours since I had my MySky box installed, so I thought I’d note down a few initial impressions. […]

  2. Posted by Jim Hirsch on January 21, 2006 at 11:19 am

    It’s probably inevitable that TiVo will face tough, if not crippling, competition from the cable operators. TiVo is already in a profit crunch, and now cable is bundling DVR units along with a slew of other services. The cable operators already have those customers, and can sell them on an iPod/iTunes-style integration of product and service – something TiVo can’t match.

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